The rate of mainstream uptake of some technologies depicted in the narratives may seem somewhat ambitious for 2020. This is a conscious choice, which not only allows for a richer and more consistent realization of emerging technologies, but also reflects the trend observed for the last half century that the pace of technological development outstrips our expectations.
Kinuko is 23 and a second-generation digital native. She does most of her shopping online, but when she does go into the city center, she has a highly personalized experience. She doesn’t need to window shop, because recommendations for things she’s previously purchased or is most likely to be interested in are pushed out to her. This saves her a lot of time and potentially wasted energy – she always knows whether a desired item is in stock before she enters the shop. But she sometimes wonders whether all these tailored recommendations mean she’s missing out on trying completely new things.
Of course, it’s taken a while for augmented reality to become truly functional. Ten years ago when Kinuko got her first smartphone it was very basic – confined to 2D maps of restaurant reviews and the like. But then the heads-up display (HUD) glasses came along and – even better – the contact lenses. Now Kinuko sees data in 3D right in front of her eyes, and it
responds to her gestures so much better than it used to. There’s talk online that retina display will be mainstream soon. Kinuko wouldn’t go that far, but her little brother and his friends (all 15) don’t seem to find it all that strange.
Kinuko’s Content Service Provider (CSP) lets her switch off what she doesn’t want to see. The premium service is expensive but it’s worth it to filter out all the stuff she’s not into. Her provider knows that she doesn’t particularly like going to bars, so it physically masks them with ads related to her interests – body art, running and collaborative 3D printing projects.
Her display is linked to her social networks, allowing her to spot her friends at a distance, even round corners. This used to be a bit of a pain until she got the premium service, which allows her to render herself – or at least her data – invisible to particular people, or when she doesn’t want company. She tried the basic service for a while, but got tired of being disturbed in the street when she had things to do, places to go.
Kinuko never really has to remember much these days. Her content service lets her record and store anything she wants. But she likes to use her physical memory just in case the service goes down, which happens from time to time. There are still plenty of people out there who insist on experiencing the world without augmentation, but they tend to be from older generations who are more comfortable using smartphones. She’s heard that the elderly in
particular find it difficult to filter out the “white noise” of augmented reality, and can find it too distracting. She’s also seen a news feature on a global parent group that is campaigning for an age limit of 8 years and above, claiming an increase in childhood accidents and serious injuries
as a result of augmented reality usage.
Data about Kinuko is being collected all the time. She knows this, and accepts that it’s part of a tradeoff which brings greater convenience. Kinuko has grown up with social media, so she doesn’t see a problem with publishing data about herself to others. But she’s also one of a growing number of people worldwide who want greater autonomy over their own data. That’s
why Kinuko made sure that her premium service also included a provision for her to receive a weekly report on how her data is used. This has become really important since her provider recently bought a mood recognition software company. Kinuko draws the line at big companies knowing what mood, she’s in, particularly as she’s a sucker for behavioral advertising. She’s
thought about buying one of the scramblers she’s seen advertised, but doesn’t like the thought of possibly funding criminals.
Under the terms of her contract Kinuko has also secured permission to sell her own data. Data is big business, it seems, for good and bad guys alike. Data about people’s experiences, behavior and moods are used to develop new commercial products, and to target these at people who might be interested in them. But they’re also helping to teach computers how to be more human, and Kinuko’s heard that it won’t be long before robots are learning about
human behavior from intelligent data like hers.
Selling her data is something that Kinuko’s only very recently been able to do. With all the services out there that generate and store data on people there’s been something of an outcry, with citizens reclaiming ownership of their data. Faced with global popular pressure, service providers have offered certain premium customers the ability to resell their data. As a result specialist data brokers are springing up all over the world. But it can be difficult to tell the legitimate companies from the bogus ones, especially in some regions, and now there are calls for greater regulation. Kinuko uses a recognized identity and reputation management service as a data broker, which takes commission every time she transfers 1 Gigabyte (GB). In return she gets micro-credits, which can be used at most retailers.
This company manages multiple identities for Kinuko, with different levels of anonymity. There is her official identity, which she uses to vote, pay taxes and fines (mostly for traffic offences in Kinuko’s case), her three social identities (for family and friends, gaming, and everyone else) and her two business identities (manufacturing and music). After she had her main bank account hacked five years ago Kinuko decided to have a different payment system
for each of her identities. It spreads the risk but keeping track of everything can be tricky.
Luckily, her identity management service does that for her too. It also monitors her “presence” and reputation, alerts her when she appears in any content and flags up behaviors from sensor data that she may not want to share with others.
For Kinuko’s generation, visiting a branch of a bank is a distant memory, as are weekly visits to a supermarket. For years now Kinuko’s finances have been managed entirely online, her payments entirely mobile. It can sometimes be a bit of a chore verifying all her transactions, but the iris and voice recognition apps speed things up a bit. Kinuko doesn’t have a full-time job, but gets enough to live on from a number of part-time interests. She runs a manufacturing business with a group of colleagues she met on a project-based recruitment site, making parts for gadgets and children’s toys using 3D printing technology. The team is located all over the world, and they design, project-manage and manage their finances in the Cloud. To generate extra income, the team sublets its processing power when not in use.
Kinuko also belongs to a barter network where she trades her skills and knowledge. She’s an accomplished guitarist, and the online lessons she gives generate credits, which she can trade in for the help she needs with her technical designs. She’s also collecting micro-credits for her online performances, but sometimes she donates to good causes herself, helping to kick-start the production of a movie or a book which sounds interesting. She spends a lot of money on in-game items – too much, her Mum says. But she’s only got stung with counterfeits once or twice and she’s not had any items stolen so far this year.
Kinuko is single at the moment, but she’s just signed up to a new dating service, which uses her personal and sensor data to match her with someone who is behaviorally similar. She’s got an online date with a guy in Mexico this evening. She doesn’t speak Spanish, but instant translation is now so good that that shouldn’t be a problem.
Much of the data associated with Kinuko is generated by sensors, which report remotely to other machines without her noticing. Her car transmits data on its state of repair to her garage, her essential food and household items are automatically reordered when they are used up, and her home reports on its energy and data usage. Even some of her clothing items are fitted with sensors – when she goes to the gym, they collect data on her heart rate and workout performance, so her online trainer can monitor her fitness and adapt her tailored program accordingly.
Kinuko doesn’t mind wearing sensors, but she draws the line at having an implant. That’s the way things seem to be going in some countries, with RFID tagging at birth. The governments concerned say it’s for public safety and convenience, but plenty aren’t convinced. And yet, wireless implants seem to be starting to catch on amongst gaming communities elsewhere. The only problem is that some gamers are already being infected with malware.
Since smart grids came online a few years ago Kinuko has heard that in some parts of the world people are able to steal electricity by hacking into the system. That’s bad enough in itself, as there’s always a poor consumer who’s losing out, but it’s even worse in areas where the power and Internet connection are delivered down the same tube. In these places, one hack
can mean stolen electricity and personal data at the same time.
But when Kinuko thinks of her great-grandfather she’s actually quite happy that so many things are now networked. Felix is 94, lives on his own, and is one of the many people who now benefit from technology assisted living. Medical implants regulate Felix’s heartbeat and blood sugar levels, reporting wirelessly to his medical service provider. His home is specially adapted to keep him safe and healthy – turning off his gas stove after an hour unless he overrides it, only filling his bath for a specified amount of time, adjusting the climate to his body temperature and prompting him to update his social media status every two hours so that his family and friends know he’s OK.
Kinuko does worry about what would happen if someone were to interfere with Felix’s home management system. Every six months or so there’s a data outage of some kind – it seems the data centres get overloaded sometimes, that the different types of sensor aren’t always compatible with each other. There have even been terrorist attacks on data hubs that have resulted in elderly people falling seriously ill. But Kinuko also suspects that Felix
doesn’t really understand how to keep his home network secure – he’s always falling for scams, and he doesn’t always know how to tell a legitimate home management app from a malicious one designed to steal his data. So, she’s adding him to her account with her risk management provider.